What is the Young Women’s Initiative?
The New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) is an intergenerational, participatory governance planning process. Community advocates, policy experts and the Young Women’s Advisory Council were charged with determining the needs for programming, policy change, data collection, and areas for long-term research that would improve the lives of young women of color (cis or trans) and gender-nonconforming young persons in the city of New York. The focus of YWI includes:
- Identifying the needs of young women and girls of color ages 12–24, knowing that areas for intervention may reach a wider age range.
- Spotlighting issues experienced by women and girls of color, knowing that when inequity is disaggregated by race and gender, disparities in outcomes in New York City are overwhelmingly concentrated in communities of color.
- Embracing an inclusive framework around gender, beyond the binary, and ensuring that transgender women and gender-non-conforming young women are also centered in this work.
YWI seeks to build a lasting blueprint for moving policies and investing in the future of young women and girls of color in New York City over the long-term.
Story of the Young Women’s Initiative
In 2014, Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), along with other community leaders challenged the New York City Administration to include the racial and gender justice needs of young women of color within the local Young Men’s Initiative and national My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.
As a public, Call to Action, GGE hosted a series of historic town hall hearings on girls of color in NYC in partnership with AAPF, dozens of local organizations, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Member Laurie Cumbo. Following the hearings, the NYC Council Speaker staff and GGE began meeting to share our vision of a Young Women’s Initiative for girls of color.
In March 2015, Girls for Gender Equity, New York Women's Foundation, and NoVo Foundation, met with the Speaker’s office to present a brief and discuss local and national efforts to build an agenda for young women and girls.
In May 2015, the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that the City Council would launch a Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) focused on changing the lives of young women and girls of color who experience the greatest disparities. Along with Council Members Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Elizabeth Crowley, Laurie Cumbo and Darlene Mealy, Speaker Mark-Viverito presented an empowering vision before an audience of over 2,000 leaders of community-based organizations and philanthropic partners who gathered for the New York Women’s Foundation’s annual Celebrating Women Breakfast.
September 2015 over 200 stakeholders, city council and city hall staff, including the Young Women’s Advisory Council meet numerous times over a six month period to plan policy, programs, data and resource recommendations for women and girls of color in New York City.
May 2016 New York City Council released New York City Young Women's Initiative Report & Recommendations that included a total of 99 policy, program, data and resource recommendations from all 5 work groups and Overarching Recommendations.
August 2016 - Current Girls for Gender Equity began the Young Women's Advisory Council 2.0 (YWAC) so the young women can continue to serve as strategic partners to city agencies, philanthropy and community members. YWAC acts in the capacity of advisory and accountability team as policy and program recommendations are implemented throughout New York City
How we collaborate
The New York City Council convened stakeholders across the City, including but not limited to community-based organizations, advocates, policy experts, and young women themselves. Together they made recommendations to secure the futures of women and girls across the five boroughs.
Aligned with the Council’s commitment to participatory governance and knowing that young women and girls are experts in their own lives, the City Council created a Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC), which played a key advisory role during the process.
The City Council called upon three leaders for racial and gender justice, Joanne N. Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity; Ana Oliveira, CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation; and Danielle Moss Lee, CEO of the YWCA of New York City to serve as Initiative Co-Chairs. In partnership with City Council staff, the YWI Co-Chairs provided the vision, structure and framework for YWI. Initiative Co-Chairs formed a Steering Committee of grassroots advocates, policy experts, advocates and leaders of YWAC, who convened a Working Group process to develop recommendations for improving the lives of young women and girls.
Members of the Steering Committee led five Working Groups: Health, Economic & Workforce Development, Community Support & Opportunity, Education, Anti-Violence, and Criminal Justice.
YWI also engaged a Data Working Group to gather quantitative and qualitative data to inform the recommendations. Lastly, YWI included a comprehensive communications strategy on social media platforms– #SheWillBe – which aimed to counter the negative messages that young women and girls receive from the media and promote the ongoing engagement of young women and girls in their own voices, while highlighting their strengths, experiences and stories. *
The entire framework has been led by Sasha Neha Ahuja and Laura Popa along with 60 city council staff members at City Council offices in NYC.
Over 200 service providers and city agencies, along with committee members of all four main committees, are divided into five working groups dedicated to a particular issue: Health, Anti-Violence, Economic & Workforce Development, Education, and Community Supports & Opportunities. Each issue group is takes inventory of the current service landscape to examine policy and programmatic opportunities.
The City Council convened key stakeholders, including young women and girls themselves, to help lead a needs assessment process and issue recommendations.
Image courtesy of Melissa Mark-Viverito